Setting: A meeting of young adults, encircling a wise elder
YA 1: Who can we look to in the Bible so that our families will be perfect?
Elder: Ah, perfection is only found in one person, Jesus,and even his family had its issues. His cousins wanted to be given the privilege of sitting closest to him in heaven (Mark 10:35ff). Or was it their mother who made this special request (Matthew 20:20ff)? One way or the other, they tried to play the nepotism card. Jesus’ brothers even thought he was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:2) and “did not believe in him” (John 7:5). So, perfect family? There has never been a “perfect family.” But there are some wonderful examples of faithful children of God who did their best to follow God individually and, many times, as a family.
YA 2: Well, we know we can rule out Adam and Eve. They sinned.
Elder: And who here hasn’t? (pause for dramatic effect)
YA 3: And Cain and Abel weren’t ideal brothers, were they? Oh, and I think they had another brother–Seth, right? We don’t know too much about him.
Elder: Isn’t that true of many family members? Some are faithful, wise and hard-working; some have committed horrible crimes; and some are barely footnotes in the family tree.
YA 4: Okay, so surely we can look at Noah and his family.
Elder: Noah was definitely a faithful child of God, but since his family story is included in the early tales of creation that are similar to the parables of the Jesus (some use the term “myth,” but that can be off-putting), maybe we need to look at some families who are traced historically in the Bible.
YA 1: You mean like Abraham and Sarah?
Elder: Oh, now you’ve opened a whole new can of worms! (read the rest very quickly) Do you remember that Abraham passed off his wife as his sister to save his own life and that she was, indeed, related to him through his extended family tree? Do you remember that they laughed when Sarah became pregnant with Isaac? And then Isaac married Rebekah, who helped Jacob trick Isaac, and then her brother Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah, and then they had the battle of the babies between Leah and Rachel, until, finally, Joseph was born, and he, of course, was Jacob’s favorite, which created a whole new rivalry between Joseph and his brothers, and…
YA 2: Wow, maybe we just ought to skip over to the New Testament.
Elder: We can do that, but remember, there are marvelous personal characteristics in many of these same biblical figures that we can look to for how we should live our lives. Remember how Joseph treated his brothers kindly when they came to him during the great famine? What about Abraham and Sarah’s faithfulness to God and to each other even on the long journeys they took? How does your family do on long trips?
YA 3: Good advice. What can we learn from some New Testament folks, though?
Elder: Well, let’s see—Mary wasn’t married but was pregnant; Mary (another Mary) and Martha didn’t exactly agree on how to serve Jesus; Peter put his foot in his mouth more than once, and yet….
YA 4: There’s good news?
Elder: In more ways than one. Mary and Joseph were faithful to each other and to the call to go where God told them to go and to do what God told them to do. Mary (the other Mary) was a powerful example of literally sitting at the feet of Jesus to listen to his words. Martha was wonderful with her hospitality, and she’s the one who took action and ran to Jesus when she thought her brother was dead. Peter loved his mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31) and took care of her when she was sick. Now there’s a positive role model for you.
YA1: Yes, but Peter and the other disciples left their families to follow Jesus. That had to be rough on their families.
Elder: You have found the ultimate wisdom for each of us in that declaration. If we are to have personal lives and family lives that are as close to ideal as is humanly possible, we must be willing to put those lives second to God. Give up the fishing, the tax collecting, the all-consuming work and the idle play—and follow Jesus. Oh, you can still fish and pay bills and work and play, but they need to be secondary to loving and serving God. You want the perfect family? Only if each member practices putting God first—each in his or her own way—learning from mistakes, sitting at the feet of Jesus, serving with joy—only then will your family, whatever it looks like, be the one you’re praying to have.
YA 2: Wow, that’s a huge challenge. What if we mess up?
Elder: Start by reading and studying your Bible. You’ll find you are in good company. But you’ll also find that God’s purpose will be accomplished for you and your family, just as they were with Abraham and Sarah and Mary and Martha and Peter and so many more. Look for the good in each one you read about and in each one you meet in your life. As Micah reminds us: Seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. It will be a good start.
Sue Moore is a ruling elder and certified Christian educator in the PC(USA) and is a past president of APCE. Her greatest joy is found in studying and teaching the Bible.